Hartford’s Latino residents targeted in kidnapping scam

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Hartford Police

HARTFORD – Police are warning residents of scam phone calls targeting Latinos.

Deputy Chief Brian Foley said the calls are made to parents, saying their children have been kidnapped, and demanding ransom money. Foley wants to let people know this was a scam and their children are not being targeted.

The FBI warned about these scams earlier this year after a similar series of calls in the New York City area. They said, “Callers are ordered to stay on the phone until the money is wired, often to a third party in Puerto Rico. Most schemes use various techniques to instill a sense of fear, panic, and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into making a very hasty decision. Instructions usually require the ransom payment be made immediately and typically by wire transfer using companies such as Western Union.”

The FBI advised people of these warning signs:

  • Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856)
  • Calls do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone
  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone
  • Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim
  • Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service

If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.

Anyone with information about the virtual kidnappings can call the FBI at 212-384-1000.